BURGER DAYS team returns from scouring DC for BEST BURGERS around with their special OFF SHOOT column of SILF which we’re calling BILB (classy, we know)
THIS WEEK, THEY STOP BY 2941.
The joint, nestled alongside a lake between Routes 29 and 50 in Falls Church is quite the posh venue.
We’re used to sidling up to the bar or cashier at a counter when placing our burger orders, so when we have to put our fancy shoes on (read: non-Chucks) and tuck in our shirts, it leaves us feeling a little self-conscious.
Having said that, 2941 is not the swankiest place we’ve been to on our burger adventures. In fact, the spot has gone through a recent “refresh,” with a new, more casual approach to both the dining room, decor and food lineup. And this change is the very reason we found ourselves there three times in the past week. See, prior to January of this year, there wasn’t a burger to be found in the house. But with a new menu introducing more affordable, value-priced options, along came a trio of our favorite sandwiches on the planet in the form of beef, turkey and duck burgers. (Yes, technically two fail our “burger” test, but bear with me, I’ll get into that more later.)
But even with their new burger roster, there were still plenty of questions. Oftentimes when we see a burger at a fancier joint like this, we’re left disappointed. Far too many swanky restaurants phone it in and put little thought into the burger that winds up on their menu– its presence only there for the sake of having one in the mix.
That couldn’t be further from the case here.
It’s obvious Chef Bertrand Chemel knows what he’s doing with his new creations and it’s clear he put some serious thought into the trifecta that now figures so prominently in the lunchtime and bar lineups. ”Burgers are great comfort food, and I thought they’d be very appropriate when we revamped the menu,” says Chemel. “In addition to a beef burger, I wanted to do something a little bit different, which is why I came up with a duck burger with foie gras.”
Well, not only is his beef burger one of the best we’ve ever eaten –period– but we think the duck burger could be even better.
The regular burger doesn’t sound like much. The menu details the All American as simply beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato and olive oil bun. No fancy aiolis. No froufou toppings requiring translation by the waiter. Just the absolute basics.
And man oh man, do they work beautifully together.
The execution was damn near perfect as the burger surpassed every flavor expectation we had. And the aesthetics of this thing are downright picturesque– it’s beautiful in its simplicity.
The beef is absolutely blanketed in completely melted cheddar cheese that continues its drizzly path past the meat overflowing to the bun below. And speaking of bun, there’s no excess meat or bread in this burger equation. The toasted and buttered olive oil brioche is the ideal size for the six-and-a-half ounce patty.
Our burgers –on each visit– were expertly cooked to the perfect temperature. And that’s no hyperbole. With a red, warm inside that ran from edges through the center, they were the definition of medium rare. The meat itself was a coarse ground and the patty was loosely packed with each bite resulting in a mouthful of straight juicy burger nirvana. The mellow, beefy flavor hits you in the mouth like a freight train with no breaks and packs an amazing luscious richness thanks to the flavorful, fat-heavy 70-30 mix of short ribs, chuck and brisket. Running the risk of sounding like a pretentious asshole, I’m going to bust out the word “umami” here, because, goddamn, the umami of this burger was off the charts. Some may find the patty not as firm as they’d like, as the fatty mix lends to a softer, mushier composition to the meat, but we didn’t mind in the slightest.
They wisely leave the lettuce, tomato and onion off the burger and we strongly recommend keeping it that way. All that stuff will only get in the way of the harmonious union of beef, cheese and bread.
Now, if the All American was the only knockout on the menu, we’d be more than content. However, there’s another burger that matches, and might even surpass it.
We’ve openly derided poultry in burger form, lamenting ground fowl for being placed in the same category with the cow, but that’s only because we never had the right one before. Forget those skinny-ass turkeys and chickens, if someone’s taking the bird route, duck is the only way to go.
Chemel’s duck burger, The Daffy, is pure burgery bliss.
He takes fresh ground duck breast and leg and mixes in a little Hudson Valley foie gras to form the patty which is then topped with thin slices of cured foie gras. And if it was left at that, this thing would be a winner, but what sends this burger into all sorts of ridiculousness is the onion agrodolce– a gooey, gelatinous mix of thinly sliced onions, Banyuls vinegar (a really fancy French vinegar), glucose, sugar and Espelette pepper. The result is wonderfully sweet and sour amalgamation with just a touch of heat, making for a dynamite complement to the savory duck. In some respects, it’s a lot like the beef burger– both have strong, bold and rich flavors anchored by the fat content of the meat. The main difference with the duck is the agrodolce cutting through all that savoriness.
The same bun accompanies the duck and it does the same bang up job. It’s light, airy, and while it may not look like much, it holds up extremely well and let’s the meat shine.
We did tango with the turkey burger as well, called The Greek, served on pita bread with feta, cherry peppers and caramelized onions. Chemel told us it’s their most popular burger, but we didn’t care for it all that much. We found it a touch too salty and by bypassing the excellent bun for the pita, it made the whole thing drier than we would have liked. Sure, the turkey is gonna be a hell of a lot leaner than the beef or duck, but with all the flavor your missing, just make an extra date with the elliptical and go for the good stuff.
It deserves another mention that every burger ordered on our three visits were all cooked spot on. Each time, the variation of doneness was virtually indistinguishable from the last and that is such a strong testament to the quality of a joint. Consistency is just as important as everything that makes up a burger. If you can put out a great burger but it’s only great half the time, you better step up your game. 2941 is on their game.
In addition to the big burgers, appetizer, or “Nosh,” standouts from the menu included the wagyu sliders (available at dinner only) and black truffle mac & cheese croquettes. For the sweet-loving crowd out there, 2941′s take on Milk & Cookies was delicious. A vanilla malt milkshake is served alongside fresh-baked chocolate chip and molasses drop cookies and a salted caramel shortbread so chewy, we’re still picking it out of our teeth.
The beef, duck and turkey burgers are available for lunch in both the dining room and the bar, and available at the bar only for dinner.
With three trips down in seven days, we see no sign of slowing our roll here. The burgers are phenomenal and the prices ($15 for beef, $19 for duck– both served with fries or salad) are right in line with the D.C.-area’s other fancy-ass burgers. Without a doubt, we foresee many a return trip to 2941.
Fancy shoes and all.
(Cheap Burger Alert: From noon to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, get any of their burgers for half price at the bar for March Madness. And during the entirety of March, they’re hooking up 30% off food at the bar during Happy Hour, 4 – 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 – 7 p.m. on Saturday.)